|Rudy getting ready to take me on a walk at the park|
There's a park just across the way from the parsonage with a half-mile walking track that the city put in a few years ago. Rudy the dog takes me for walks over there, and I oblige him as often as I can. There's a large playing field for lacrosse matches on the weekends, a nice playground for the kids, a basketball court and a splash pad that opens when the weather turns warm. Rudy loves it, stopping every ten yards or so to smell the grass and/or to leave his mark, reminding the other canines that frequent the place that this is as much his as it is theirs.
|And then there are the other dogs|
And then there are those other dogs who from their backyards peer at us and bark for attention through their fenced-in enclosures. We have our favorites, well at least I do. Rudy is accustomed to the din by now and pretty much ignores them all. That is except for Maggie. She's a pretty little Lhasa Apso who often wears pink bows in her hair and is meticulously groomed. Her fence is right close to the track and if she's outside, she'll run to greet us in her rather high-pitched squeaky voice. In fact, until I learned her name, that's what she went by, Squeaky. My other favorite is the big hound dog whose house sits back in the corner beyond a popular shade tree. He stands on his back legs, his front legs hanging over the fence and bays away. I think his people call him Cash. And there are the dachshunds, the golden retrievers, the miniature collie, the Labrador retriever and others, most of questionable ancestry. My heart always feels a bit lighter after a lap around the park, especially if the dogs are out, calling out their greetings to both of us as we pass by.
Then there are the flowers. One section in particular is especially beautiful right now. The bushes overhang the fence of a property owned for many years by a school teacher. She's gone now, but I can't help but think of the visual gift she left to that young family who bought her home and to those of us who walk by that section, taking in the beauty and breathing in the fragrance of those blossoms. They naturally call me to reflect on my own life, challenging me to ask myself what kind of gifts I intend to leave behind.
And there are of course the people. Sometimes the park is quiet, most likely during a last minute walk around at dusk or before a threatening rain. But Spring is enticing and the sounds of basketballs on concrete and the familiar squeak of swings is once again sounding across the field of grass. And there is the familiar question, "Can I pet your dog?" and the reassurance that Rudy is just fine with that. I've noticed that most people in a park are not in a hurry, that they don't mind striking up a conversation. They're not so guarded or seemingly pressed for time while relaxing on a bench or watching their child go down a slide for the umpteenth time. Some of my best encounters with neighbors have been at the park, and I try not to miss opportunities to connect with others I might not meet otherwise, even if it's but for a moment. You just never know where it might lead.
Travis is my part-time neighbor and part-time walking buddy. He's nine years old, almost ten, and is with his dad on weekends and Tuesdays. He likes the park and likes Rudy. During our times together we're getting to know each other. He tells me about school and talks about his two dogs and his temperamental cat. The other day he asked me what kind of movies I like and we talked all the way around the track about that one thing. "You want to go again?" he asked me. And we did.
The sun has come out after a bit of rain so I think I'll grab Rudy's leash and head to the park. He's prancing at the door because he knows exactly where we're going. It's a Tuesday but knowing him, he will barely slow down long enough to let Travis catch up with us while he throws on his jacket. After all, it's the park, his park. And that's just the way it is.